Washington Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov emerged as a true first pairing defenseman during the 2016-17 season.
After a summer of negotiating, the Washington Capitals got Dmitry Orlov to sign a one-year deal in September. They did this knowing they would have to re-negotiate with their defenseman after the 2016-17 season. Orlov did it as a way of helping his team out. By doing this, he was in effect gambling on himself.
Orlov’s gamble saw a return of a jackpot for both sides. The Capitals got a first pairing defenseman and the Russian defenseman earned himself a much deserved raise. Signing Orlov long-term is a top priority for Washington this offseason.
All stats, unless otherwise noted, are at even strength. Corsi and goals for numbers are adjusted. Stats courtesy of Hockey Analysis.
|TOI per game
|5v5 primary assists/60
|Rel. Goals Against60
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Orlov was extremely good this season. Though his average time on ice per game appears low for a first pairing defenseman on paper, he led the Capitals in even strength ice time. Orlov set career highs in points and assists. He got more active on offense all across the board, setting career highs in even strength shots per 60 minutes, iCorsi/60 and primary assists per 60 minutes.
Perhaps most telling is how amazing Niskanen and Orlov were together. The duo ranked first and second among Capitals defensemen in even strength CorsiFor percentage. Together, they had a 61.1 percent unadjusted goals for percentage with a 56.3 percent unadjusted Corsi For percentage in 750 minutes. Orlov also significantly cut down on his terrible giveaways. They were very common during the 2015-16 season, but noticeably more absent this season. Only Niskanen had more even strength points among Capitals defensemen.
One concerning area of Orlov’s game is his discipline. He’s a very aggressive defenseman who isn’t afraid to get physical and pursue the puck. This showed in his 51 penalty minutes, nearly a 100 percent increase from his 2015-16 total of 26. Orlov was also relatively unproductive in the postseason, putting up just three assists in 13 games. His possession numbers weren’t impressive either, ranking 15th among the 20 Capitals skaters.
Orlov is a first pairing defenseman. There is no debate. It doesn’t matter that Orlov is rarely, if ever, used on special teams. The fact is, most of every game is played at even strength. If all Orlov does is lead the team in even strength ice time, that tells you he is a first pairing defenseman. Hopefully, he gets more special team time next season.
Specifically, Orlov’s shot proved to be an interesting addition to the Capitals power play. Obviously, the Caps power play requires a right handed shot at the point. But Orlov shooting one timers gave opponents another thing to have to worry about. With the departure of Karl Alzner, expect to see number nine get more shorthanded playing time as well. Orlov has made amazing strides in his puck possession, but he’ll need to be even better to be an effective penalty killer. But considering how far he has come in merely a year, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a great shorthanded guy for the Capitals next season.
How much money would you give Orlov this offseason? Should he be getting more time on special teams? Discuss these questions, and more, in the comments below!